Throughout the month of June, we will be celebrating 20 years of TNA/Impact Wrestling with our #Impact20 series of reviews, columns and podcasts. One particular series will look at a handpicked selection of the best TNA/Impact Wrestling Matches of All-Time.
Christopher Daniels (C) vs AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe
TNA Unbreakable 2005
September 11, 2005
Did you know that TNA/GFW/Impact Wrestling has only ever had one match rated five stars by Dave Meltzer?
I remember seeing those words, or words to that effect, in a typically irritating tweet from Chris van Vliet some time ago. It does hit at something prescient about this match though, in that it’s arguably known more for getting the five-star rating than any of the moments in it.
When I saw this match for the first time some years ago, I loved it. I’ve watched it countless times since and while my wrestling horizons have considerably broadened since that first viewing, my love for the match has never diminished. Indeed, no amount of spotfests or cynical old man criticisms of tropey multi-man scrambles could take away from the magic that these three produced.
In one corner, you’ve got a peak AJ Styles, an athletic marvel who made everything look so simple. You had the champion, Christopher Daniels, a technician with exemplary ring awareness. And then there’s Samoa Joe, who remains one of my all-time favorites because of the aura he projected. He was menacing, he was snarling, he was violent.
The backdrop to the match is fairly simple – Daniels is the longest-reigning X-Division Champion in company history (at that time), Joe is the undefeated sensation who just won the Super X Cup and Styles is the prodigy and former four-time champion who was cost X Cup glory by Daniels.
There’s a little bit of comedy in the initial exchanges as Joe and Styles attempt to one-up each other and show how you actually kick Daniels in the back. From there, however, it’s balls-to-the-wall chaos for the next 20-plus minutes.
Trying to recap everything that happened here would be a misstep, but there are a few highlights I simply have to call out:
- Christopher Daniels intercepting Joe’s running boot by pushing him to the outside and following that up with a dive to the outside and a springboard moonsault
- Daniels monkey-flipping Styles out of the corner into Joe, who caught him in a powerbomb before getting hit with an Hurricanrana
- Joe hitting a massive twisting dive to the outside
- Styles getting Joe up for the Torture Rack and making it look easy
I’ll probably sound like a broken record in my write-ups for some of the older matches selected in this series but the whole experience here is enhanced by the commentary of Mike Tenay and Don West. They’re two guys who love wrestling and their passion and enthusiasm is infectious.
One thing that did dawn on me during this rewatch is what must be going through the mind of wrestlers when they’re in the midst of what they must know is a classic. A penny for those thoughts, please…
The finish encapsulates the story told throughout the match that these three are so evenly matched. All of them get their big spots but none are able to get enough separation to secure a three-count. Instead, it has to be something quick and surprising, like Styles reversing the Angel’s Wings attempt into a pin while Joe was on the outside.
Forget star ratings. The greatest compliment that I can pay this match is that if I was asked to show someone just one match to prove how exciting pro wrestling can be, it would be this one.